Phil Collins calmly hobbled on stage amidst a chorus of welcoming cheers from 5,200 ecstatic fans at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
The former Genesis frontman and Grammy-winning pop balladeer performed his third sold-out “Not Dead Yet Live” show at the iconic 146-year-old concert hall on June 7.
Collins kicked off the 2.5-hour show with the No. 1 power ballad “Against All Odds” from 1984. Fans erupted with thunderous applause and a collective call of joy in response to the Collins classic.
“I know I said that I wouldn’t do this again, but the truth is that I missed you,” he said. “You won’t be seeing too much dancing from me tonight. Thank God! I had a back operation, leg’s f**ked, but we’re here, right?”
Collins performed his entire set seated due to a recent back operation. His 16-year-old son, Nicholas Collins, filled in for him behind the drum kit. It’s quite apparent Nick inherited his father’s tremendous drumming skills and knack for performing live.
While Nicholas Collins anchored the rest of the band during the show, his father steered the musical helm into nostalgic waters for fans. About four songs into his set, Collins unearthed a hidden gem, “Wake Up Call,” from his 2002 album, “Testify.”
“I wish you’d bought it,” he said jokingly. “It’s got a lot of my favorite songs on it. There’s one song in particular that we’ve never done live, and we’re going to do it tonight. If you like it, tell your friends. If you don’t like it, then don’t tell anyone.”
After “Wake Up Call,” Collins dug deeper into his musical archives to pull out a 1978 Genesis classic, “Follow You, Follow Me” from the band’s first album as a trio, “…And Then There Were Three…”
During the song, photos and videos of Collins and his bandmates – Peter Gabriel, Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks and Steve Hackett – flashed on the screen behind him. It served as an emotional and compelling recap of Collins’ nearly 40-year career with the band, and it was a pinnacle moment for Genesis fans.
“I thought it would be very nice if we did a Genesis song,” he said. “Now, by some coincidence, last night we had Tony Banks here, and tonight, we got Mr. Mike Rutherford here.”
Fans eagerly waited to see if Rutherford would set foot on stage to play with his former bandmate, but he didn’t. It turns out he was there simply watching the show with his wife. It’s a shame the crowd couldn’t have a mini Genesis reunion, even if it was just for one song.
Luckily, Collins also sang “Invisible Touch” during the second set of his show while fans enthusiastically welcomed another Genesis tune. Despite his recent health challenges, Collins still sounded sharp and committed to being back in the musical saddle.
Toward the beginning of his second set, Collins and Nicholas Collins performed “You Know What I Mean,” a deep cut from 1981’s “Face Value.” Nicholas Collins played the piano while Collins sang next to his side.
“A couple of years ago, Nicholas was kind of going through what dad did in the war and he discovered ‘Face Value,’” Collins said. “He took a shine to this song, and I heard him say, ‘How do you play it?’ And I said, ‘I don’t f**king remember. I wrote it and played it once in the studio and that was it, so I had to learn it and then teach him. We thought wouldn’t it be nice if we did it together on stage.”
Other memorable performances included “Separate Lives” with backup singer Bridgette Bryant, who filled in famously for Marilyn Martin, and “Easy Lover,” Collins’ 1985 hit duet with Earth, Wind & Fire’s Philip Bailey.
“Something Happened on the Way to Heaven” and “Sussudio” were crowd favorites as attendees sang in unison and danced along with Collins on two of his biggest solo hits.
Another highlight included hearing Nicholas Collins perform one of the most famous drum fills in rock history during “In the Air Tonight.” Fans experienced a magical moment while playing air drums simultaneously with several thousand other budding drummers that night.
Collins closed the show with a 1954 cover of Vera Lynn’s “If You Love Me (Really Love Me) and “Take Me Home” from 1985’s “No Jacket Required.”
“When I was about 12 or 13, there was a song I used to hear on the radio, I guess, and it was before the days of television,” he said. “It was on the radio also at drama school where I went and there was a girl who sang it. I was captivated by this song, by the lyrics and the melody, and I think it kind of led the way to my feelings about writing romantic songs.”
Unfortunately, Collins had to postpone his June 8-9 shows at Royal Albert Hall after falling and hitting his head in a London hotel room. Those shows have been rescheduled for November 26-27. Those other 10,400 fans will have to wait a little longer to see Collins’ enigmatic comeback.